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Ross Edelstein's Work With the Archives and Willson

June 29, 2020

Ross Edelstein was the most recent intern with the Archives of the Great American Songbook Foundation. Learn more about he work he did for the Songbook Foundation and how he's bringing what he learned to his next stage.

What have you learned during your internship with the Great American Songbook Foundation?

I learned a lot about effective communication.  Not only between myself and Lisa [Lobdell] and other members of the organization, but also in terms of developing new training and new processes.  In addition, learning to be clear in communicating, in a brief description, what is in the videos and audio I am working with to a point a researcher could quickly ascertain what is going on has been a challenge on this front, but one I'm glad I've taken on.



What was the most interesting piece of history that you discovered?

I actually discovered the most interesting piece of history this past week.  Meredith Willson was in charge of the Armed Forces Radio Service, and the way it was set up was particularly interesting to me; not only did it have a lot of stars, but in terms of shows, it seemed like he used a lot of show formats he had worked on before the war.  Additionally, seeing this nexus of so many people who are a part of the Songbook was fascinating, especially as I went through more and more of the shows.  Particularly interesting from this front was the VJ Day special produced compared to the VE special.  VE seemed to be a party - a celebration of the end of hostilities in Europe - while VJ was more solemn.  It included celebration, but also a reading of Ernie Pyle's writings and a speech by Truman.



From the Meredith Willson Digital Collection: (left) Meredith Willson in military uniform (undated); (right) Thomas H.A. Lewis compliments Meredith Willson and the Armed Forces Radio Service Orchestra on their AFRS VE Day program (April 13, 1945).


What did you accomplish or initiate during your internship?

I've processed probably about 8-12 terabytes worth of audio and visual content, gathering information about what was done in the file and who did it.  That's the basic part.  Given the pandemic, and the general changes to what the job has looked like, I've developed training on multiple areas of what I'm doing on the internship, as well as worked out the process of working from home.  I've also helped develop a stronger social media presence through the trial of a reddit account, despite the difficulties a pandemic might add to that.



What advice do you have for future interns with GASF?

My advice is ask questions and find what interests you.  As an archival internship, it would follow that the work would be focused on that.  I've done work on social media and accessibility while here, simply by asking to do it.  It also helps to do a variety of tasks; there is a level of burnout that can come from listening to the same radio show 5 times through and trying to find where they mention the guest star for 8 hours, no matter how interesting or historic the file or work; don't be afraid to ask for something different.  You'll thank yourself for it later.


What was the most rewarding experience you gained from this internship?

The people I've met.  While the work itself is incredibly rewarding, and being able to say "I just finished 400 radio shows" is an incredibly satisfying feeling, the staff and volunteers at the Songbook are an incredible group.  Being able to interact with everyone and have the chance to see how committed everyone is to the organization, as well as to my success as an intern, is such a wonderful feeling, and I couldn't have asked for a better place to be for the first half of this year.



What are your aspirations for the future in museums or archives?

As much as I have enjoyed the archival work I have done here, my future goal is to work with public programming and museum education.  I also always do have a soft spot in my heart for accessibility related tasks, and will be continuing to work on that as well, and see where it all takes me.


What's next for you?

I'm not quite leaving the Songbook; I will be continuing on as a volunteer at least through July (and hopefully longer, depending on where time takes me!) with the files I have in my possession.  I have a few loose ends to tie up just thanks to the sheer scale of the project.  As for what's next after that, I am starting my second year of my Master's this fall, and will be going to the Eiteljorg as their Public Programs intern starting in August through May.


Read more about Ross here.



Thank you for your dedication and innovation over the past 6 months, Ross!